7 Simple Steps to a Successful Year-End Giving Campaign

Donors are making their lists, they’re checking them twice and they’re gonna find out which nonprofits have been naughty or nice. That’s right: nonprofits receive 50% of their annual donations in the last three months of the year. Is your nonprofit ready for year-end giving?

Just because donors are ready doesn’t necessarily mean your nonprofit is. You can’t sit back and magically expect to receive 50% of your budget by simply sending an email and posting a few things on Facebook and Twitter. Getting year-end giving right is something that takes time and energy, and I’m going walk you through the process in 7 easy steps.

1. Get started early 

Start your year-end giving planning for 2018 as soon as you’ve written your thank-you’s for this year. October is a time for finalizing and preparing to execute your plan, not a time to start thinking about how you’re going to approach year-end giving. If you’re just starting now, you’re already too late.

2. Have a strategy 

Create a goal to meet for a specific project you want to raise money for. This goal will help you and your organization focus and it will give the donor a reason to give beyond “operational costs.” The more you can show a donor where their money is going and what it’s being used for the better the chance you have to separate yourself from every other nonprofit who is after your same donor. Make your mission matter and show your donors where their money is going.

3. Choose your platforms 

From your strategy, you get to decide if you want to integrate several mediums or stick with just a couple. As Maeve Strathy puts it, “direct mail is not dead and works very well when integrated with other outlets.” Think about the most effective ways to reach your donors whether it’s social media, direct mail, email or something else altogether.

Direct mail and social media can direct your constituents to a stellar donation landing page (which we just learned how to make awesome). Some organizations make use of fundraising events as a means to raising year-end donations. Events are among the most effective ways to have a strong year-end giving campaign when your objective is on-mission.

In addition to going above and beyond with a campaign or event, don’t neglect some low-hanging fruit like #GivingTuesday on November 29th.

4. Tell your story 

Your organization’s story is one of the most important parts of its mission. Your story needs to be told in a short, powerful and relatable way to quickly communicate why your story matters as much or more than what other nonprofits are doing and how a donor can help achieve your mission.

When asked about storytelling and year-end appeals, nonprofit industry thought-leader Marc Pitman said, “So what if the tax credit is taken away? If the donor is only giving to your cause because there is an IRS tax credit, then you have a really sucky story you’re telling. There has to be something far more compelling you’re inviting your donor into than, ‘Oh, you get to itemize your tax bill!’”

While tax deductions are a little extra incentive to get new donors to give before the calendar turns over to a new year, your nonprofit needs to rely more on your story and less on the season or tax credits. Put together your story, tell it in a compelling and meaningful way and anything can happen.

5. Engage with your community 

Talk to companies and foundations, form partnerships and make asks—do whatever it takes to get your board engaged. Don’t be afraid to ask your community for support and to become an advocate for your organization during this important time. In addition, put your existing advocates in a position to succeed by letting them decrease your workload by fundraising and engaging other community members on their own.

6. Show gratitude 

Everyone remembers how you made them feel. You’re asking donors to part with their hard-earned money for a good cause, now it’s time to add the cherry on top: the thank you.

Show genuine appreciation and sincere gratitude with hand-written thank you notes—speak to the impact of a donation if you can. For larger gifts, consider a personal email or even a phone call to go above and beyond. This simple touch-point keeps your nonprofit in the front of your donors’ mind and it greatly increases the chance they’ll donate to your organization again in the future.

7. Start planning your next year-end giving campaign 

Pat yourself on the back and do some fist-pumps in the air after your year-end giving campaign is over—it was a lot of hard work, but it’s always well worth it.

After the quick celebration is over, don’t lose any more time in getting started planning for next year’s year-end giving season. Start with basics like reviewing what went right, what went wrong and how you can improve for next time. Once you have a solid foundation on how your organization approaches such an important donation season it’s easy to continue to improve on it year-after-year by including more people, making more asks and getting the word out earlier.

Now, go make your year-end giving campaign the best yet!

Originally published 9.26.16Updated 10.5.17